CIO Leadership Live with Shannon Gath, VP, Head of Technology at AMAG Pharmaceuticals | Ep 20


hi good afternoon it’s so nice of you to
join us today for CIO leadership live I’m Mary Fran Johnson the executive
director of CIO programs here at IDG and I am very fortunate today to be joined
by Shannon Gath who is the head of technology for a mag pharmaceuticals
here in Waltham Massachusetts Shannon joined the company in 2017
bringing more than 20 years of experience in IT along with her a mag is
a mid-sized 440 million dollar biopharmaceutical company founded in
1981 the company specializes in drugs used to treat anemia at risk pregnancies
and other women’s health conditions before her current role at a Meg Shannon
was the vice president of IT operational excellence at fidelity investments and
before that she served as director of global information services at vertex
pharmaceuticals she started her career out as a mechanical engineer and holds a
BS in mechanical engineering from Tufts University thanks so much for joining us
today Shannon thank you for having me alright let’s start out talking a little
bit about a Meg pharmaceutical and its place in the biopharmaceutical industry
because I think I think everybody these days is paying a lot more attention to
health care and a lot more interested in what the things that are going on on the
healthcare frontiers so I know we have a lot of great stuff to talk about but
let’s start let’s get a little more specific about your company about the
company in itself so like you said you know the company’s about 40 years old
you know they went public in 1986 with the first drug around 2009 13 focus on
anemia and then shortly after that in 2014 I believe they launched Makena
which was to reduce the risk of reoccurring preterm birth in 17 we
launched a drug in terrassa which is for postmenopausal women that suffer from
menopausal symptoms of painful sex and then we look to launch next year another
commercial product called vial EC which helps pre menopausal women with Lois
okay we have a broad portfolio of commercial products but you know the
recent changes for us is we also brought in-house to more development assets so
you know still going through the investigational periods working towards
an FDA approval one for helping with preeclampsia and another one is a
reversal agent for anticoagulants so the big change for a mag as a whole is you
know not only focusing on our commercial success but also broadening the
portfolio to have development assets in-house so we have sort of longer-term
plans of revenue and sort of having durable products in the portfolio so
it’s it’s been a big change for us because we’ve put a lot of focus on
commercial and now we’re really building new capabilities and the clinical side
of the house okay well and I noticed that too when I was doing a little bit
of research on a mag I came across a couple of analyst views talking about
the company and calling a mag a great investment for biotech investors and
noting the innovative technology and continuous product development yeah so
it just it does seem like one of those companies where technology is greatly
respected and is definitely a big part of the growth strategy it absolutely is
and I felt nothing but complete top-down support since the first day I was there
excellent excellent well and one of the things let’s go up
fly up 30,000 foot view and talk about the biopharma pharmaceutical industry
what is disrupting things the kind of things that are changing for your
customers I think one of the things you mentioned was that life science
companies today all faced similar headwinds in the market talk a little
bit about that you know I think the way I see it I try to put myself into sort
of a patient lens right so if I think about healthcare in a broader sense what
I think we’re all trying to work towards and achieve too is you know where the
patient experiences convenience low cost quality outcomes and and respect privacy
is a big concern for those patients as well so I think all the companies
whether you’re a pharmaceutical or a payer or caregiver
working towards a place where that’s the experience of a patient I think
everything else falls in mind the revenue is expected for her strong
company’s performance but I think you know where I see things going you’re
gonna have an integrated network that’s connecting patients caregivers and
logistics and if you think about the players in that space you know you have
the big ecommerce Giants of Alibaba and Amazon who are slowly working their way
into the healthcare industry by you know acquiring earth game is on buy a pill
pack recently and they’re starting to get into that space and guess what they
are fantastic at execution you know so not only are they good at the customer
experience they’re top-notch but they’re also able to manage the logistics of
getting you know products to consumer in a way that satisfies the customer right
so they’re gonna play a big part in that Network
I think pharmaceutical companies need to keep an eye on that and also figure out
they need to be a valued part of that network and and have their contribution
to it and the the companies that figure that out are the ones that are going to
be successful yeah well and it’s inevitably going to be very strongly
based in the technological capabilities yes that you can deliver I’m thinking of
some healthcare CIOs I’ve interviewed and they’ve talked about a connecting to
Alexa so Alexa can I guess speak up and remind patients you know it’s time to
take your medicine that sort of thing I there seems like there’s going to be
more and more of that going on one of the things you also mentioned that
you’re seeing a big pivot going on in the market with kind of the older school
life science companies even joining in on this where you move from not just to
focus on hospitals and doctors offices but direct-to-consumer absolutely I
think you know I talked about that patient lens of convenience right yes
so I think figuring out how to make your products work in a convenient fashion
for patients it’s really important so I think as far as a technology perspective
goes telemedicine is huge in that space and a mag is already you know marching
in that direction our president Bill Hyden is a big fan of
telemedicine it’s you think about it you know trying
to schedule a doctor’s appointment and drive down commute down to the hospital
parking fees all that stuff is so inconvenient like everyone’s busy right
so you know for me more often than not I’d put off a doctor’s appointment but
you know you think about being eight o’clock at night on your couch hitting a
button and being directly connected to a physician that can diagnose and
prescribe you know it makes it you know a better patient experience you’re
dealing with things as they happen it’s convenient and then you know the
industry benefits as well so I think telemedicine is gonna be a big one I
think you know you talk about text messaging that’s convenience too so you
know say I’m taking a vitamin three times a day getting that remind it’s
hard to think of that three times a day so not only are you getting people to
adhere to the dosing cycle which is gonna be your best outcome then the
pharmaceutical industry is also benefiting because their product is
being consumed right yes well and then the product is bringing about the
results it’s supposed to that’s right because it’s being properly administered
I had an experience like that this week where I need I’ve just recently started
working with a doctor who has a portal yeah and it it’s so cool and so
interesting and I needed to change an appointment and that’s usually agonizing
you usually have to call you have to get them at the two hours a day that someone
is answering the phone and you’ve got to explain you got to go through all that
they’ll call you back I went on the portal and was able to see the calendar
and just like click lick myself into a new time it was amazing I was just so
even the littlest things like that can very much impressions yeah like
telemedicine will be part of that integrated ecosystem they’re gonna play
a big role and I think you know just having smartphones connected to sensors
I think it was a roach that recently did an MS study and they were able to have
people that were suffering from MS which is near and dear to my heart cuz we have
people in my family that actually are struggling with it but they would be
able to connect to their spot room from the comfort of their home connected to
sensors with you know gyroscopes and whatnot to measure like you know their
balance how is that changing and you know are they able to twist their wrists
you know at a certain instance and then they can see how the disease is
progressing in each individual they have so much more data than what they would
get by waiting for that patient to come in and check
to a clinic and whatnot so then you’re you’re better informing companies to
know how better to attack those diseases right so it’s really interesting stuff
yeah well and um you mentioned also when we talked earlier that you know and
communicate with a lot of life sciences CIOs yeah and that there’s a lot of
grade and I find this often with CIOs in many different industries where there’s
kind of an open network of sharing because everybody’s trying to solve
problems that are in many ways very similar absolutely talk a little bit
about that you said you you all have like you text each other it was black
chat you know so that we can stay connected with one another I mean you
know it’s talking to someone today about how you know we’re all you know I’m a
cloud first company right so pretty much everything that we have is in the cloud
so our financials are run on Oracle Fusion cloud when they run into a
problem at Oracle all the clients that are using that platform are going to
need to work together to figure out how to address it right so having that
convenience of connection it helps make sure that we’re all making the right
choices on behalf of our companies is really important well and you’d
mentioned to we were talking about the patient and the digital side of the
house yeah at a Meg how is that how is that change since you got there your
your title you’re a VP and head of technology yeah but it all belongs to
you so do you have like a special digital team or talk a little bit about
how you approach the kind of the digital transformation aspects of what the
company’s doing yeah I mean there’s technology you know people that were
smart with technology and a lot of different areas of the company and the
companies need to be you know orchestrated like that you know I think
I look at the the role of IT as being sort of integrators of all that I think
we’ve had a lot of good ideas come out of our digital marketing team in
particular you know they were really champions for a social media platform
that we we installed last year we have more stuff coming up in the next year as
sort of near-term priorities to help that with the patient journey so you
know it’s spread across and I think what we tried to make sure is that we set up
the right governance to put the good ideas on the table to figure out what’s
the next best thing for okay yes you had mentioned that you’ve
got some really great marketing thought leaders yeah we do well and that always
seems like a first step when IT and marketing are working together I mean
the kind of power that can come out of that collaboration it it gets other
business units and the company wanting to work with IT as well yeah and I think
you know like for our I was recently in a working session with my leadership
team to develop the 2019 priorities for the team so one of our overarching goals
is continuing to aspire to be a high-performing team and one of the
actions underneath that was to make sure that everyone in technology really
understands each of the patient journeys for each of our products because I think
naturally technologists are problem solvers and if they understand the big
picture it doesn’t matter if your help desk technician or a strategist if you
understand it I think that’s where your ideas start to come in a mag as a whole
gets to harness that collective intelligence of the entire organization
so you know will we have regular on All Hands meetings with the whole technology
team and we’ll bring in like marketing leaders we had Megan Rivera who’s
fantastic the leading I’ve I’ll easy effort coming to speak to how we see
that product what the challenges are and and that better arms my team to
contribute well and I think I’ve seen this going on across other industries to
where that that that long-term desire to get IT and business speaking the same
language working together and collaborating seems to really be
happening so much more now as IT people get a real context of what the jobs
they’re doing what it leads to yeah you know there’s just well now you came to
you came to a Meg from fidelity investments so Nitin from the financial
industry what was it about I guess before that you were in pharmaceutical
but how did your background kind of prepare you for the role you came in for
and what were your marching orders when they brought you in you can join in the
middle of 2017 yes so my career’s been kind of have been
pretty deliberative I mean you you’re joking with me about being an engineer
earlier but I have been pretty deliberately I’m just jealous I was a
journalism sure so you know but I’ve been pretty
deliberate with my career so no I actually started out as an engineer but
in a startup so you wear a lot of hats and I tend to be somebody that wants to
understand everything so one of my roles was to implement an MRP system we didn’t
have a technology team so you know my role is to implement that but I want I
went out and trained myself as a developer so I could speak intelligently
with you know developers and then now I need to speak to the DBA so I trained
myself as a DBA and yeah etc so I’ve trained up on all those roles I played
different parts of them but then went from sort of a startup company to a
high-tech company which was sort of a smaller company and then to a midsize
company which you know was also in high tech and then to Pharma which was small
growing into mid yes and then off to financial services to experience the
larger companies so having experienced different size company and what works
really well I bring that to companies like a mag who you know are on this
journey right and hopefully they become big right but I want to be that person
that understands what what do they need in at this size versus what works at
this size right and making sure you’re not putting too much red tape in place
and that you’re tailoring it to the environment so it can be as successful
as possible so I think that’s kind of what what I’ve been able to bring to the
organization well that actually speaks well for a mag for the board and the CEO
that they didn’t get all hung up on we need a you know we need a particular
type of CIO who’s got this much experience in pharma only I have friends
who are executive recruiters and they go through that yeah they’ve got somebody
who’s got some a fabulous mixture of experience but the company’s like no no
we need somebody who’s an expert in railroad transportation you know and I I
really think a CIO is a cio across all kinds of different industries I just
find it I’m always fascinated by the career path because I think it it speaks
to how close CIOs have gotten to well the basic business as well that was
something I mentioned that I’ve noticed with a lot of my guests on the show I
could be talking to any one of the senior business executives at the
company and it’s just I almost have to remember
to like let’s talk some stuff about technology while we’re here well and
let’s let’s go back to your entry into the the company and you’d mentioned that
one of the first things you did was centralizing the technology spend so
what’s your before and after picture and the kind of things that you did in that
first 90 days or your first year yeah it was interesting so after taking the
leadership role about 90 days and I was asked to give an update to the board
yeah which was a good point of reflection for me and I look back and
realize how much actually happened in in those 90 days and I felt like it was not
so much of a success for me or my team but actually a demonstration of how
strong the company values are in my organization so our president Bill Hyden
is fantastic and he really makes sure that our core values are woven into
everything that we do and at our company it’s about accountability sense of
urgency transparency and collaboration know so I was just gonna ask you if you
could reel off the core value yes I can but but that’s I mean I think if you
asked a lot of eMac leaders they’d be able to do that as well yeah it is part
of how we operate but you think about you know so one of the first things I
did like you said with centralized technology which by the way it could be
a political nightmare right you’re basically saying hey I’m gonna take your
budget and put it over here which you know it’s not an easy conversation but I
think what you saw what I experienced was the leadership across the
organization understood that it was the right thing to do
yeah because basically on day one if you asked me how much does a MEC spend on
technology I could not give you an answer there’s a black box so buy movie
you know we moved it over but we also brought full transparency to it but we
also did that in conjunction with standing up a cross-functional
governance group so that that has been critical so now you have leaders from
every area of the business so there’s people from commercial legal HR that all
have a say and for every dollar that we have for technology where’s the next
best place to be spending it for a mag and you know centralizing the technology
would only have been half of halfway there you really make sure that you know
technology’s not making decisions in a vacuum
the only way to make sure we’re doing it right is to have cross-functional
perspectives and making sure the leaders around that table are using an
enterprise lens to do it okay yeah and that’s been a big shift for a
meg but I think that you know it’s been really healthy for the company we you
know governance no one likes that word but we try to keep it lightweight
governance so you know at a Maggi perch that we’ve taken is a single business
case is basically answering for questions so if you’re gonna come ask
for six figures funding you need to be or more you need to be able to answer
like what’s the problem you’re trying to solve yeah what do we expect the value
to be to the organization when you’re done are you increasing revenue what are
you doing how much is it gonna cost me and then what are the risks associated
with it and what that does is you take all these opportunities and now you have
apples to apples comparison around what’s the next best thing for a Mac and
we that whole leadership team of the strategic lead we call it the strategic
technology committee um literally stack ranks all of these investments so it
does a couple things not in the execution so you knows what it helps you
understand what are the priorities to be funded but from an execution perspective
you know you have people that work in either Quality Assurance or an
infrastructure that work on multiple projects when they’re in the heat of
whatever is happening and they have to make a trade-off decision they already
know how the leadership values those priorities and they could say I don’t
this is a priority five and this is a priority two so I’m gonna focus my
energy here and what that does from a corporate perspective make sure we’re
delivering the most important investments for the company well and
that that is a that can be a really serious business failing when you have
too many priorities and they aren’t ranked yes way when you just you really
don’t know the most important stuff so um well and I love that idea that nobody
wants to hear the word governance it’s so true every now and then it when I was
editing CIO magazine we went tried it we would discuss the idea about maybe we
should do a cover story on governance yeah and everybody would just kind of
hang their heads and say who’s gonna want to talk to us about that and yet
it’s so vital it into the collaboration with the business and you know that
feeling I think people hear the word governance
and they think it’s Politburo I think that it’s all politics and fighting over
scarce resources and that sort of thing and who’s got the most
political weight right and that sort of thing but you’ve actually so you’ve
worked this governance process into this strategic Technology Committee on how it
evaluates all the projects absolutely correct
now how many projects in a year get accomplished this way are we talking
like a few dozen or hundreds or I mean how so our portfolio really focuses on
probably the top ten okay major programs all right we bring transparency to a lot
of the other smaller developments but for the most part it’s pretty much the
top ten that we’re tracking yeah well and let’s talk a little bit about how IT
how you reorganized IT and restructure we you mentioned that you’ve got
different heads of different leadership areas I know you established a PMO
office and all of these things were not in place before so talk a little bit
about that sure I think the major trigger point to restructure the team is
one you want a scalable structure so you know our business strategy is to grow
through M&A so you want to structure that no matter how many more products
get added to the portfolio you’re not really changing around your team yeah
because that will just disrupt and slowdown so the big change this was to
get more business centric so we have leaders that represent the three major
areas of the business so for us it’s commercial R&D and GA those leaders are
accountable for making sure we have a multi-year strategic plan which is an
integrated business and technology roadmap but not only are they there to
develop the plan they actually are accountable for overseeing the execution
of it so they have individuals underneath them that are executing on
these priorities so we’ve also hired an Enterprise Architect where there’s a
danger in doing that that you say so siloed that you don’t necessarily get
the the higher level advantage so we have an Enterprise Architect where all
that rolls up into an enterprise Oh picture I’m wondering about that because
the silos can lead to little fiefdoms absolutely and that’s where EA is bring
a balance to that yes and you know we set up certain principles like cloud
first simplify the technology you know patient centric user centric type of
things where as we look at new products and
opportunities where we’re weighing that against our technology principle hmm
well and that’s actually gives us a nice segue into how the how the business has
been growing forward you mentioned that you’re the focus was always on
commercial on the commercial side but now there’s much more going on in the
clinical side explain the difference in what happens in a biopharmaceutical
company so the commercial side of the house is really focused on you know the
successful adoption of a new product to market right on the clinical side you’re
working on investigational assets to hopefully work towards an FDA approval
so that you can have it commercially available essentially drugs in the pipe
yes exactly yep and you want to have drugs in the
pipeline so as patents expire you have new products coming on so that you know
your revenue doesn’t end up like this so you know the team said you know the
management teams been very very smart and making sure we have a very
diversified portfolio hmm well in a company in the biopharm industry that
has been around since 1981 and has continued to grow yeah you know
obviously there’s something going on that’s working well there the UM I
always I always have to ask this and sometimes the CIOs across the table just
roll their eyes but everybody talks about digital transformation these days
yeah so I like to bring up and ask what does it actually mean for your company
in your industry and when we talked earlier you had a very interesting
reaction to the word transformation loved the notion of transformation it
just feels so Boheme it like just gigantic and and you know overwhelming
so for me like I’m a larva and now I’m a butterfly yes that whole problem I tend
to be someone that’s like paint the picture of what great looks like and
then all your decisions along the way don’t feel transformational they’re just
one more step closer to getting young so I’m a big believer and paint that vision
of what good looks like and then yes we’ll get there with these steps this is
a strategic plan to get us there okay okay well I had recently had a CIO at a
similar objection to the word innovation and he said innovation always sounds
like you’re having to invent something new he is I’m much more tuned into
Genuity ah I like that I like that it’s an AI word and there was another often
times we talk in this industry about CI was having a helicopter view across the
entire organization with that notion that you really do know all the systems
that are running all the different functions but it started that for one
thing it’s old it’s been around for 20 plus years
and it started to feel to me like it’s too much of an implied distance the CIO
is floating above it all right so now I like to talk about IT and this fits in
beautifully with healthcare IT being more like a central nervous system yeah
for the company I just really like that notion yeah that resonates with yeah
yeah it could be that I’ve just been talking to so many healthcare see yeah
well you mentioned you want a simplified landscape and cloud first and you’re
very focused on business adopt adopt ability and design for flexibility how
does that how does that spell out or how does that work out in terms of the
projects you have underway what are the big technology initiatives that you have
kind of rolling out over the next year so I would from near-term priorities I
think you know try to paint that picture of you know the experience a patient
would experience where everything is convenient and low cost and quality
outcomes and and protected as far as privacy goes so that lends itself to
what does a mag need to do to get to that place and contribute so two major
themes I would say is get the data right and the second one is how do you help on
the patient journey side so on the data side for us we are putting in place a
validated CRM platform we have multiple right now so we’re gonna move to one
tried-and-true one and also complement that with master data management so make
sure we get our data in order before we start really driving analytics and
business insights you know we have some level of that now but that’s really
gonna be foundational and scalable okay so that’s the commercial side on the
clinical side where so we put in vivo vault last year for regulatory
information management and et MF and then moving into next this year clinical
trial management says so we’ve outsourced you know all our
data really sits in the CRO is right now so we really want to bring all of that
internal and then ro is a research organization right so they’re they’re
doing a lot of that clinical work for us outside yeah so we want to really take
ownership of all that data you know a big change for us is really treating
data as an asset so bringing it inside arming people with the the data they
need to drive analytics and business insights so that’s on the clinical side
and then we’re also implementing a safety platform for adverse event
reporting as well with I’ll be using AI as an intake so everything is about
scalability and flexibility so as we add more products and volume increases you
know you’re not staffing up the whole organization you really have technology
in place to keep and remain you know a lean mean organization now to speak well
and you say lean mean you’ve got a mag is about a little over 500 people total
employees but you’re doing this with an IT staff of around 25 yeah that’s right
all right yeah that’s a lot of hard-working people sounds like you got
a lot going on yeah when you think ahead after these particular things get
accomplished have you also envisioned next year and into 2021 we have so we do
have a minefield with your engineering approach to things yeah we do and I
think you will so I didn’t talk about the patients out of the house so last
year you know we did the social media management platform this year is about
social listening and a text messaging platform so helping on the patient
journey and also getting our data in order I think over the following years
it’s really bringing in an enterprise data warehouse you know bringing all
that data not just not just clinical but making sure across the board we have all
that data internally and making sure that we continue to secure the
organization okay yeah the one of the other one we were talking about the
business growth and the kind of things that are going on with the company you’d
mentioned that one of the goals is formalizing a merger and acquisition
playbook yeah what has been happening since you joined in the M&A space and is
this something that emag is likely to accelerate in the
future yeah you know we’re just a great management team that’s always looking
for the next best opportunity to make us even better as an organization so you
know we have had a number of acquisitions lately we just acquired a
company called Paris fair so we’re bringing more assets in-house we also
last year divested one area of the business which was the cord blood
registry we really need to be good at execution there’s hard deadlines on how
do you separate technologies or bring in and and merge technologies so you know
it’s important that that goes smoothly that has visibility all the way up to
the board that you know it really needs to be right you’re bringing more people
especially in an acquisition bring more people onto the team and you you got to
help them acclimate as quickly as possible so that you can all move
forward together faster yeah and results so I think we are working on an IT M&A
playbook to make sure that we’re very thoughtful comprehensive and also fast
mm-hmm how do you as a CIO how do you venture
into the M&A world because this you haven’t been deeply involved in a
previous so this yeah your first fun experience done the more involved with
M&A much more in a mech than any other ya know that I’ve had in the past I just
think there’s there’s great leaders with an a mag everyone kind of knows their
own space and they’re so collaborative and you know the technology has a seat
at the table they bring us in early we’re not getting surprised in the
eleventh hour they appreciate the value that technology is bringing to the table
to make sure that we’re doing the right level of due diligence and planning to
make sure the assimilation process is smooth so you know it’s been fantastic
on how respect to the technology has been yeah is this one of the areas where
you’re able to tap into your other CIO friends and life sciences is it a slack
discussion thread I don’t know if I had a tap on too many peers for that
necessarily I really rely on the the leaders on my team a lot of them have a
lot of experience with a M&A and I trust them and they’re very much trusted by my
business colleagues as well and they drive a lot of that okay well I think
that’s excellent about tech having a seat at the table yeah
because that over the years when I’ve interviewed CIOs that’s been one of the
the biggest failings the companies can have is like they’ll be getting ready to
sign the contracts and they’ll say oh we should get IT involved as soon can you
imagine the as you you mentioned pivoting to expand development
capabilities in the clinical development areas how does how does the talent
acquisition play into that for you do you find a lot of times when I talk to
CIOs especially in the Boston area it’s like 0.001 percent IT unemployment
so it can be very hard to find Talent what is your experience with that as far
as hiring within technology or supporting the growth of the clinical
area within technology then technology yeah it’s a hot market right now get on
the right talent um the thing I’ve seen really impressive is
the people coming in to interview and just get such a good impression of all
the leaders within a a Mac they can really feel the sense of collaboration
and team that draws people and I think also having a focus in women’s health a
lot of or even an anemia but like in these therapeutic areas sometimes people
have a personal connection um with the work that’s being done in the
organization and it is a bit of a draw yeah well and you mentioned that too it
for you you felt like your heart was really in life sciences yeah I you know
anyway I you know like I said I’ve been in high tech and financial and they’re
all wonderful but I think being in pharma it’s easy to get out of bed every
morning you know you’re impacting you know somebody’s health or life or you
know it’s potentially saving lives I’m not gonna be a doctor ever oh I can play
a role in that and that you know it is easy to be motivated okay good well I
wanted to circle back and talk a little bit more about data analytics and the
idea of moving toward an enterprise data warehouse and that do you think
eventually you’ll need like a chief data officer or it does that fall to the CIO
there’s only so many things CIOs can do when their roles get overwhelming so how
do you how do you approach that from a leadership aspect in terms of having the
kind of data assets in your talent that you need to do that
yeah um you know you talk about innovation you know the way I frame that
with my team is around meaningful innovation right so I think we’re
working now on our enterprise data warehouse strategy and we want to do it
in a thoughtful way that’s gonna add value sooner yeah and not just go after
everything all at once where the best opportunities to do that so I think
we’re working through that now mm-hmm and that’s one of our bigger deliver
this year yeah when you mentioned to that you’re also under development for
an enterprise technology strategy yes yes how is that different from
run-of-the-mill regular technology strategy what is the part that makes
that enterprise tech strategy um I you know it’s been a really important part
of the role that I do right now is I learned a lot about our business I’m
just going through this like I said I was sat in every interview I think
hearing not only where the company wants to go but I think it also puts some good
it’s almost like a forcing function for all of us to be strategic because you’re
asking leaders across the are gonna say what what’s your vision for where you
want to go and I don’t I think some people probably have never been in a
position where they were asked that so getting more people to articulate that
helps to weave together a plan that’s making sure we have the right technology
when the organization needs it and can alignment around that and I think you
know it’s it’s really pulling together that what’s best for the enterprise okay
yeah yeah that makes sense one of the tell me a little bit more about your
cloud strategy you have it is a cloud first strategy meaning you’re gonna look
at a cloud platform before you build something internally how much are you in
the cloud now kind of percentage-wise everything’s in the cloud yes no real
on-prem for anything oh that’s kind of a it’s refreshing a lot of headaches I’ve
been in girls where there’s like a 10-year plan to get there and you know
coming to a Mac was quite refreshing so we very well positioned to be very
scalable and flexible going forward just given the nature so that’s why we’re
very careful with governance to make sure we’re looking at these principles
and respecting them as we bring new products in-house yeah yeah is is the
governance back to the dreaded gee word is it essential is that something
written down or their principles around it or is it simply the practical aspects
that come out of the the business goals that the CEO sets yeah so as part of
that Enterprise tech strategy one of it is getting your technology principles on
paper so we’re in that process of talking to all the business leaders to
make sure these are the right principles and that we’re all in alignment and an
agreement that those are them yeah and with that new EA role what that role
will bring to the governance process this year is formal architectural
reviews for all new investments mhm so you’re making sure you’re doing a level
of review that’s reflective of those principles okay yeah interesting
the let’s talk a little bit more about innovation you when you at the end of
2017 you put together a vision for this transformative path forward Nana’s ation
and then as you got into 2018 you were shifting more around focusing on
specific processes yeah what do you have is it a structured approach to
innovation or is it more unstructured is it one of those innovation is
everybody’s job or yes so you know it’s a so I think for our technology
organization we kind of had a crawl then walk and now I think we’re off and
running so I you know making something to
formalize around innovation probably wouldn’t have gone over well because we
really had to make sure we we addressed some fundamental you know areas yeah so
for innovation for us for 92 you know part of that goal-setting conversation I
had with my leadership team was everyone’s accountable for having
something related to innovation in their weighted goals for the year and it’s not
about it has to be successful because I think that you know failure is just as
important as success it’s about trying something mm-hmm trying to learn more
about the business and come up with an idea and how to solve a problem yes me
is meaningful innovation it helps the business move forward yeah so we are
structuring that this year to take personal accountability from a
technology perspective but I hope to my my aspiration is to raise it up to also
maybe get something more cross-functional in the organization to
drive that I poke I meet with you know business leaders all the time there’s
such a great passion I mean it probably starts with Bill our president but all
the leaders I meet with have such great passion around innovation you know
there’s excitement when you talk about AI and you know that doesn’t just come
from technology or digital marketing it’s it’s everywhere all right well good
well let’s talk more about AI because emerging tech trends I’m interested in
the ones that impact are the biopharmaceutical market itself and AI
robotics machine learning they all come up a lot these days with CIOs but you’re
actually you’re doing work in AI right now talk about what you have going on so
last year we had a big focus on information security so we put in a
number of technologies to help bring better visibility to the data and how
it’s moving and making sure that we were able to detect and prevent part of that
was you know stepping into AI with the next-gen antivirus so making sure you
know it the threat landscape is constantly changing yes so AI or machine
learning is a perfect technology to understand how it in and how its
evolving and then making sure we’re protecting the organization accordingly
so it’s a it’s a good fit with security in my mind
hmm and then going into 19 we are leveraging like I said for that safety
platform so that intake process will learn you know what type of events are
being reported and can you automate a lot of that in well and I recently
talked with a CIO who was saying that a lot of his focus is starting to shift to
trying to find and ferret out the things that have gotten into the system that
you’re not as aware of yeah you know it used to be protecting the perimeter and
now especially with all the partners you work with yes a lot of the data and the
cloud and all it’s more about knowing you’ve been invaded yeah and I almost
see it as I most companies should make sure they’re using a managed service
provider because then you’re you’re paying for experts in the field with big
armies of security engineers to really understand it all and stay on top of it
for you and side you have a responsibility to make
sure you have all the right technology controls in place to detect and feed off
to those but your your managed service provider is gonna be the one that’s you
know 24/7 monitoring and and you know you you know you need a team that really
knows how to respond quickly to these incidents and in a meaningful way to
really shut things down early yeah and learn from them have you have you
changed or has a mag changed the way user education is done around
cybersecurity I wouldn’t say we change I think we’re actually pretty effective at
you know we have a great information security officer his name is Don cook
really putting in place the right type of campaigns to bring awareness to the
field force you’ve said that our numbers are fantastic as seeing the the progress
of putting out these campaigns I just think our work first was really smart
and and they learn well and I think security in general almost as like an
interesting topic for anybody in the company and I think everybody goes
through certain onboarding training and all that and I think there’s an
excitement about it and people are good about it well and and I think too that I
always tell anybody helped us there’s the the whole the SU issue the stupid
user errors you know where I you’ve opened up an email and I think we’re all
getting better now about catching the fishing’s yeah I’ve gotten so paranoid
about it that I at one point I missed some important email from HR yeah
because I thought it when I saw it I thought it looked like a phishing thing
and I sent it to helpdesk they said no it’s okay if you open that level of
paranoia it’s healthy for the K we’re very encouraging – they said good for
you you know you sent over an important HR email saying this looks like fishing
to me yeah and I think even our board is very engaged with cybersecurity they’re
inviting us to come give updates because they very much want to understand what
that looks like and how it impacts the company and what we’re doing about it
you know this great top down you know supporting around information security
and what our and as we as we wrap up here let’s talk a little bit about your
view of IT leadership and balancing the competing demands on your role which are
every bit as much business as they are technology related
what are what would you counsel your CIO friends about being a great CIO and the
things that you’ve found that really work well for you in my mind you know I
almost think of it not even so much as a CIO but as a business leader I have to
put it in a plug for the Patriots because the Super Bowl is coming up but
I kind of think but anyone think you have to be sort of the Bill Belichick of
the business world you’ve got an engineer the right team to build a
lasting dynasty and I think that’s how you handle the demands if you have all
the right team members on your team you’re gonna execute you’re gonna
execute well so I think it’s really about forming at the right team the
right talent well then you mentioned to when we talked about this before the
governance word came up again yeah it’s about cross-functional governance yes
and by that you mean technology in business all cross-functional is way
outside of IT yeah and technology should never make decisions in a vacuum ever
because they’re not gonna make the right ones it’s really getting multiple
perspectives together and make a better decision yeah I think that’s critical to
everybody’s success okay and last question I had for you was
about women in IT you know getting more gender and racial and educational
diversity into IT I know this is a focus for you yeah so what how did that come
about and what do you do about it so I’ll share a quick story I was at a
conference for CIOs a few years back I was and after a keynote I went to go
meet a colleague so I go up to the colleague and he introduced me to the to
the rest of the group which I didn’t know and they said okay everybody this
was Shannon gasps and the first comment was oh is that your wife because it was
more likely that I was somebody’s wife than a CIO and I think that was a
catalyst for me to say okay we need to change this and the worst part about it
the person that said that was the only female CIO in that group so if we can’t
even see ourselves in these roles you know it’s gonna hold us back so I think
for me that’s something I carry with me everywhere I’m a big advocate for women
you know so Island that’s a ton of time in that space I you know I was in 2018
was the chair of our Women’s Network a mag and and sit on the advisory board
for the Women’s Network for the Boston Chamber of Commerce as well so trying to
reach out and make sure that we continue to make progress and change I’m a big
believer in getting to an equitable environment for everybody but it’s got
to be men and women working together to solve for that gender gap it can’t just
be women so you know that’s really what I approach you know and try to lead with
good good for you yeah I I’ve just I’ve had I increasingly have conversations
oftentimes with male CIOs who you know are either talking about the efforts
they have underway or they are in an exploratory mode because they know they
really need to do this and they want to do it they want to get the talent
diversity is actually what drives the innovation and absolutely and the
transformation word as well right and we certainly have a long way to go you know
I know I look around at my Wes I’m putting together agendas for my
different events because I do ten of them during the year and I you know I
tend to go after you know the CIOs that are have great stories to tell and are
responding to me and usually there’s some point where I stop and look here
I’m like do I just have all 50 something like guys there’s anything wrong with 50
something white guys but it’s just and I’ve had women come up to me at the at
our events if it was a panel where it ended up you know being all men on the
panel they you know we’re noticing people are noticing and it doesn’t count
that I months to nobody you know I think it’s you know if you watched 60 minutes
last year you had Marc Benioff on there yes and he was basically out there
saying diversity is my top priority and when you have more and more leaders
doing that I think you’re starting to see changes I mean back in my earlier
days I was the only female at the leadership table forever and then now
it’s very different like you know it’s now it’s much more almost a 50/50 split
and most of the environments that I’m in and that’s like a great change it’s not
everywhere well no and it’s not and we have it there’s a huge percentage of
women in IT it’s like 50 60 percent even but when you get up to IT leadership
levels it gets into the single digits absolutely definitely something that we
will keep working on so all right we will expect great things from
in the future on that why guess your team is already very diverse yeah you
probably have half that are women and different many Mac as a whole as a great
you know split of women versus men it’s a great environment to work in okay good
we will head into the future with that thank you so much for your time today
and thank our audience for joining in and taking part in this conversation
with Shannon gas from a Meg pharmaceuticals we will see you back
here again I have a special way for you to celebrate Valentine’s Day on February
14th I will be here at 10:00 in the morning talking with Christie Grinnell
who is the CIO at General Dynamics information technology so we hope you
will join us then and if you tuned in late to my conversation with Shannon by
all means check out CIO comm on our homepage we have links where you can get
to the entire video conversation here and we also put this as an audio podcast
on all the places where you get podcasts so thanks again for joining us and we’ll
see you again next time

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